It started two years ago funded by donations, no taxpayer dollars and $10,000 has been spent. At a press conference Tuesday, Evesham and Voorhees Township officials announced they will be extending the program for another year.
“We have brought anywhere between 5,000 and 6,000 people home,” said Evesham Mayor Randy Brown.
“Evesham became the first town in the United States and perhaps the first in the world to offer free Uber rides home for those who shouldn’t be behind the wheel,” said Uber Spokesperson Craig Ewer.
Evesham’s police chief says there has been a dramatic drop in DUIs so far.
“We’re on pace this year to have almost 60 less DWI arrests than we had in prior years before on average and that’s a lot. I don’t know if it’s because of our high visibility deterrence, but I think a lot of it has to do with this initiative,” Evesham Police Chief Christopher Chew said.
But beyond the safety, business owners are noticing the free rides are benefiting them economically. NJTV News visited Marlton Tavern and interviewed Britt Huckaby, the catering sales director and part-time server.
“Our revenue has gone up a lot because now they’re eating more and drinking more and staying later here at the tavern, so I definitely think proceeds have gone up a lot more,” said Huckaby.
She joked that she’s been working there as long as the free rides have been around.
“A typical night here can be very, very busy,” she said.
But in those two years, she says she has helped many people navigate through the Uber app to get home safely.
“You make sure that they don’t have too much to drink and you cut them off at a limit and stuff, but now with this app it’s amazing because you know they’re going to get home okay and they’ll take this free ride and that they are going to be safe,” she continued.
“We’re going to go out to all the bars and restaurants, meet with the managers, meet with the bartenders, meet with the staff to show them how this program works and how they can best help their patrons get home safely,” said Brown.
Brown’s passion for this program, his brother says, is personal.
“Some of you don’t know how this started in my brother’s eyes. A little while ago, one of my neighbors was leaving his girlfriend’s house and was driving home and he got killed by a drunk driver,” said Rick Brown.
If technology is the key to this happening less and perhaps never again, that is something these people say they’re not going to let slip away.
“I’m confident that many, many lives have been saved,” Voorhees Mayor Michael Mignogna said.